The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

baking steel - how hot?

AndyPanda's picture
AndyPanda

baking steel - how hot?

I have a thick baking steel that I was using for pizza.  With pizza, I was looking for very fast bake (like 90 seconds).  And where you might go 700F or higher with bricks or stone, I found that going much hotter than 600F with the steel was burning the bottom.    So I have this notion (could be wrong) that steel needs to be less hot than stone.

Anyway .... now that I'm starting to learn about sourdough (woohoo) ... I just shaped two baguettes and they are proofing.   I have one of those - not sure what they're called - perforated metal pans shaped like two baguettes that I figured I would use to hold some shape since I'm still learning how to work with sourdough and shape it (and I have A LOT of learning to do - I pretty much have shaped the ugliest baguettes in the world).      But I'm kind of thinking I might try heating up the steel and using my pizza peel to try and load the baguettes directly onto the steel.

So how hot should I heat the oven with the steel in there? And how long should I leave the baguette's in there (I've been hearing 45 minutes on a stone - but I'd expect them to be black after 45 minutes on the steel).   Or will the steam cool things down when I put water in a hot cast iron skillet in the bottom of the oven?

deblacksmith's picture
deblacksmith

At least two things going on here - the energy density of steel is about twice that of stone and the rate of conductivity is about 40 times great for steel that stone.  So you have these two effects - more stored energy in the steel and much faster transfer to the dough.  Given enough time it will not matter but time is important here.

From personal expeience in blacksmithing you get burned much faster touching steel that toughing  a fire brick.  I don't very often burn myself - but teaching students - they like to hand you hot things - you get very careful around students.

IceDemeter's picture
IceDemeter

dependent upon loaf size and hydration.  Due to the increased volume of a loaf of bread vs a pizza, you want to be baking at much lower temperatures in order to fully bake the inside without burning the outside.  The main difference for bread baking when using a stone vs steel is really the amount of heat that the item holds and how long it takes to pre-heat.  Opening the oven to load the dough drops the temp, as does adding the water and generating steam.  The heavier weight of the stone is supposed to retain heat better so that there is less of a temperature drop in the oven when using it.  The thing is, it is really individual as to the properties of the specific stone or steel as to which really does retain heat better.  Basically - they both work, so use what is easiest for you!

So - for baguettes, which are generally about 350g or so when proofed, most folks plan on preheating oven with stone or steel to 500 degrees F, and then bake either at 500 or 480 for about 10 - 12 minutes with steam, and then drop the temp to 475 or 450 for another 10 - 12 minutes to finish the bake after venting the steam.  Timing may vary depending on how much heat you lose when loading and when removing the steam, so start checking at the lower end of the time frame. 

For a grand run-through of making baguettes, I strongly recommend watching this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYvORu_oLYc

Looking forward to seeing your sourdough baguette bake!

 

AndyPanda's picture
AndyPanda

I got really excited when I slid the baguettes off the peel and onto the steel.  They puffed up and looked just like I hoped they would ... but I had the oven too hot and left them in too long and ... well, I just don't understand how to make baguettes or any free standing loaf - haha.  The poof  they had at first disappeared and I ended up with flat bricks that you could use to hammer nails with and gummy insides - so Yikes, I totally blew it on the oven temp.  Live and learn. 

As a sanity check, I had shaped some of the same dough into a regular loaf and baked with an inverted loaf tin over the top for half of the bake (I have a small side oven - no steel in here) - this gave me a very tasty sourdough (about 70% Hard White Wheat freshly ground and the bran screened off and used to feed the starter, the rest mixed with 30% KA bread flour).

I know I'll eventually figure it out, but I always manage to mangle it unless I use loaf pans and make traditional bread.   I should probably stick with white flour on my next baguette attempt - I'm just so used to baking in a loaf pan with whole wheat - but gotta learn to walk first I guess. 

Here's how the same dough worked when done in my double bread pan method:

IceDemeter's picture
IceDemeter

to make sure that we're not too disappointed at a new experiment going sideways!  I gotta say that I love your "damn the torpedoes - full speed ahead" approach :-)

I can't quite bring myself to try a full white flour recipe, either - not even for a baguette.  My attempts at the tricksy little beasts have been with a 32% whole grain mix (10% spelt, 10% durum, 10% rye, and 2% rye malts) that gives me a flavour that I really enjoy.  I love all of the things that I'm learning about shaping and timing with trying the baguette shape, but always do a standard "back up" loaf, too.

Hopefully you'll get a chance to run through Alfanso's video, and then take a look through some of his and kendalm's and dmsnyder's blogs to get some great pointers on the shaping and timing --- and then take the bits that make sense to you and create your own favourite baguette bake!

Looking forward to "round two" (and back-up, of course)

Keep baking happy!  Laurie